This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri, on February 5th 2020.
In over three years of Life in the Army articles, I’ve written about many jobs. This is about my favorite – Infantry. The Queen of Battle.
The mission of the Infantry is to close with the enemy by means of fire and maneuver in order to destroy or capture him, or to repel his assault with fire, close combat, and counterattack. FM (Field Manual) 3-21.8 THE INFANTRY PLATOON AND SQUAD. That means COMBAT.
Every other job in the military exists to support the infantry, because no matter how far advanced military technology becomes, there must be soldiers on the ground to hold territory. It is the hardest, most demanding, most frustrating, most challenging, greatest badass job in the world. Here are some comments from real grunts;
“It is the worst, most terrible, difficult, strenuous, testing job there is. It is also the best. Hands down. Bar none. I absolutely love it, and many others do as well. So, stop smoking weed and wasting your life, and learn it for yourself.”
“I freaking love it. Because one day when I have to work till six at some dumb civilian job and I’m all butthurt, I can think to myself well at least it’s not the middle of a brigade exercise, day three of straight rain, and I just got done digging a foxhole with overhead protection with proper camouflage, and oh what’s that? Roger sergeant I’ll be ready to move out in ten so bravo company can move into my just built home and I can stay up all night digging another foxhole 2 kilometers to the east. Then I’ll smile and wonder why I chose a job that the only transferable skill is landscaping. But it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Some of the smartest and greatest people I’ve ever met have been infantry. The bond you make with the guy to the left and right of you is something most people will never know, and when you cement those bonds with the amount of bs and hardship you make something near unbreakable. It’ll also teach you a lot about yourself. Plus, it’s freaking badass.”
“I couldn’t imagine being any other MOS, I get paid to hang out with my best friends and shoot stuff all the time.”
“Honestly, if you enjoy pushing yourself (on sleep, physically, mentally) it’s an amazing job. It’s really hard work, but you get through it with your boys and you all form a cohesive bond. The camaraderie of infantrymen is something I’ve never seen anywhere else; true ‘ride or die’ dudes that will go over the edge for you, no questions asked. I will never experience anything as scary, intense, frustrating, or rewarding as my time in the infantry ever again, and it genuinely makes me sad. When you get out you realize how remarkably tame life is back home.”
There are requirements to enlist in the military. You must meet those requirements, for some medical and discipline issues, waivers are granted. Here are my ideas of other aptitudes you should have before enlisting for the infantry. First you have to have that desire, that inner hunger for something more. More exciting, more challenging, more rewarding, and more pride. A desire to be the best at what you do. You have to be fairly smart – of average intelligence. That old tale that all the dumb guys get sent to the infantry, is not true. Some of the smartest soldiers I served with were in the infantry. Infantrymen have to think on their feet, fast. When the shooting starts, there is chaos and the infantrymen have to very quickly figure out either how to put the bad guy out of business, or how to get out of Dodge if there are way more of them than you. You have to have a good body. Not a muscle builder body, just a good body, with no weak areas. I have had infantrymen in my platoons who were 5’ 5” and weighed 140 pounds, but they could hump a 65 or 70 pound rucksack all day, every day, and they could run 7 to 8 minute miles all day. You have to have endurance, and you never quit. There is also another issue, you have to be honest with yourself and everyone else. If you’re not, you will be soon. An infantry platoon of 40 soldiers, will spend days, sometimes weeks, and during deployment, months sharing foxholes, MRE’s, water, canteens. razors, socks, ammo, and stories. They support they guy who feeling down, razz the guy who screws up, and pull pranks on the guy who is too proud of himself. And will put their life on the line to cover your back. Any BS a new platoon member brings with him soon dissolves. Everybody is just who they are. Maybe that’s why I and thousands of other former grunts and current grunts love the infantry, you learn things about each other that no one else knows, including family. You share the worst of times and the best of times.
There are two MOS’s (Military Occupational Specialty) in the infantry, MOS 11B Light Weapons Infantryman, and MOS 11C Heavy Weapons Infantryman (mortars). A person enlisting for the infantry, enlists for MOS 11X, then whether the soldier becomes a 11B or a 11C is determined, by the Army, while that soldier is in training. There are way more 11B’s than 11C’s.
All Army infantry training is on Sand Hill at Fort Benning, Georgia, the Infantry and Armor Center and School. Infantry training is conducted in OSUT (One Station Unit Training) companies, meaning both basic combat training and advanced infantry training is in one company – straight through. Until about a year ago, Infantry OSUT was 14 weeks long, 10 weeks of basic and 4 weeks of infantry familiarization. Major Army Commanders complained that infantry trainees weren’t being thoroughly trained. Infantry OSUT is now 22 weeks long, 10 weeks of basic and 12 weeks of infantry training. Those who graduate now (not all do), really are well trained infantry soldiers, ready to step into a squad and perform.
The Squad is the basic maneuverable unit in the infantry. There are nine soldiers in a squad, led by a Staff Sergeant. It takes between five and seven years to make Staff Sergeant in the infantry. The Squad is composed of two four man teams, each led by a Sergeant. It takes, on the average, around 3 to 4 years to make Sergeant. There are three rifle squads and a weapons squad in a Platoon. The weapons squad has two machine guns and two anti-tank weapons. Those are all MOS 11B. There are three platoons in a company, plus a mortar section. The mortar section is MOS 11C.
There are three basic types of infantry units. Light Infantry, Mechanized Infantry, and Stryker Infantry. Stryker is the newest, built around the Stryker vehicle, which is a heavily armored, eight wheeled, fast moving, (62 MPH) vehicle carrying a nine man infantry squad. It comes with various weapons systems from machine guns to 105mm tank guns, to hellfire missiles. Mechanized Infantry rides in Bradley Fighting Vehicles. The Bradley is a lightly armored, tracked vehicle, with a 25mm cannon, designed to transport an infantry squad, and keep up with Abrams tanks. A plain infantryman can end up in any of these types of units, however if the soldier has the airborne option, he will be in an airborne unit, which are all light infantry. There are five airborne Brigade Combat Teams (BCT), three in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the 173rd Airborne Brigade at Vicenza, Italy, and the 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division at Fort Richardson (Anchorage), Alaska. The 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York is light infantry, with two BCT’s, and the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky is light infantry, with three BCT’s. The 101st is called an Air Assault Division, because they ride in helicopters, but they are basically light infantry.
For the past few years, the Army has been trying to increase its size and particularly the number of infantrymen. When this was originally published in February 2020, MOS 11X was in the top tier of enlistment bonuses, getting $40,000 for a six year enlistment. However, bonuses change as MOS requirements change. Currently a three year enlistment for MOS 11X gets an enlistment bonus of $4,000, four years gets $7,000, five years – $8,000, and six years gets a $9,000 enlistment bonus.
The Mechanized and Stryker grunts get to ride some, but they also have to maintain that steel monster in the motor pool, and they still walk about as much as light infantry. I prefer light. Go Airborne!!!